John Brockman asks experts what we should fret over—and what to let go
PARENTING Relax, says psychologist Aiison Gopnik. Mostly kids are shaped by their genes and peers. Be concerned about poverty or neglect, not about being the perfect parent. Says Brockman: "Kids will be just fine."
VIOLENCE IN FILMS Fictional mayhem isn't worth all the hand-wringing, says English professor Jonathan Gottschall. Proof that it leads to real violence is shaky.
FINDING LOVE Yes, singles, worry a little. According to psychologist David Buss, 'The competition to attract desirable mates is ferocious," so give it your attention.
INTERNET COLLAPSE Big worry, says historian George Dyson, who believes we are not prepared for an inevitable "catastrophic breakdown oft he Internet."
WORRYING lt is itself a worry because it is mentally "corrosive," says psychiatrist Joel Gold, who fears too many people are fretting instead of enjoying life.
...That dominance of short-term thinking is regrettable, but might also be inevitable in this media-political era. And maybe there's also a good side to the mitigating climate show. That is certainly what environmental economist Jennifer Jacquet suggests in the fascinating book [What Should We Be Worried About?] 153 x caffeine for your mind. Lay In that bundle 153 great thinkers of that we really should be worried.
In her contribution Jacquet says that the heavy emphasis on the human responsibility in climate change leads to a kind of pessimistic lethargy. It is the paralyzing notion that no longer matter, because we are bound.Jacquet fears that a basis for a more effective climate policy is also slowed down by the fact that we let ourselves psychologically paralyze by too much doom posts. It is better to focus on concrete problems, susceptible, for which realistic solutions are conceivable. All will be well, so are the message (but not real).
Jacquet's idea stimulates the mind. Certainlyit turns out that a number of other authors-thinkers come to the same conclusion. We make ourselves worry too much. That is their biggest concern. As Classicist James O'Donnell summarizes the " Your anxiety will in the end go away, because the problem will most likely go away; or perhaps your fear will come true and you'll be in a different place; or else you'll be dead. . . .
The darkest fears of the leading lights and rising stars of science, brought together by the Edge's John Brockman, could keep us all awake at night
WARNING: read the subtitle of this book first. Its editor, cultural impresario John Brockman, may well have you struggling to get your shut-eye as he sets out to keep us on our toes.
The trick this time lies in the tone of a book of answers to questions that Brockman poses annually to science's great and good on his Edge website. It's really not all good news.
In 2007, Edge asked what we were optimistic about. Six years later, the tone sounds like a pessimistic rejoinder: what shouldwe be worried about? But with Brockman it's rarely simple. He invited people to share a scientific worry that might not be on the popular radar, or one they think should drop off the radar. ...
At the end of the exercise, Brockman's crew has left us with a net balance of new fears. But they also introduce us to some big ideas. As psychologist Daniel Goleman puts it: "Effective worrying focuses our attention on a genuine threat and leads to anticipating solutions." Or perhaps biologist Craig Venter is onto something when he writes, hopefully tongue in cheek: "As a scientist, an optimist, an atheist, and an alpha male, I don't worry."
Cosmologist Sean Carroll is one of many who have recently answered the annual question posed by Edge.org, which this year was: What scientific idea is ready for retirement? Sean, whom I’ve met at the Naturalism workshop he organized not long ago, and for whom I have the highest respect both as a scientist and as a writer, picked “falsifiability.”
Which is odd, since the concept — as Sean knows very well — is not a scientific, but rather a philosophical one.
Now, contra some other skeptics of my acquaintance, at least one of whom was present at the above mentioned workshop, Sean is actually somewhat knowledgable and definitely respectful of philosophy of science, as is evident even in the Edge piece. Which means that what follows isn’t going to be yet another diatribe about scientism or borderline anti-intellectualism (phew!). ...